FIRST DOWN: ROOKIES STEP UP
Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes had to have a big smile on his face after Sunday's 15-9 win over Green Bay. Not just because the win snapped Detroit's five-game losing streak, but because Holmes' rookie class played a huge role in the victory.
Third-round draft pick Kerby Joseph recorded his first interceptions of the season off Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter inside the Lions' end zone. He notched a second pick in the third quarter at the Lions' 3-yard line. It's the third straight game Joseph has forced a takeaway. He created forced fumbles in both the Cowboys and Dolphins games the previous two weeks. He also had a terrific leaping deflection that prevented a deep touchdown in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, Joseph left the game in the fourth quarter and didn't return after taking a hit from teammate Jeff Okudah as the two tried to make a tackle. Campbell said after the game Joseph is in the concussion protocol. Joseph finished with 10 tackles, two interceptions and three passes defended and is starting to look like a real playmaker for Detroit's defense.
No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson made a terrific interception in the end zone in the second quarter after recognizing an attempted tackle pass by the Packers and taking advantage of an underthrown football by Rodgers. He also had a couple tackles in the game.
"He made some comment about me being a young pup or something," Hutchinson said of what Rodgers said to him after the interception. " And then he told me he gave me a freebie and I was like, 'Freebie or not, I'll take that interception.' It was cool man. It was a cool moment and that's my first-ever pick in football really. And I got it against one of the best."
Rookie fifth-round pick, tight end James Mitchell, ended up with the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard strike from quarterback Jared Goff. He also had a key third-down reception in the fourth quarter.
There were a lot of playmakers Sunday for the Lions, especially on defense, but it's a good sign moving forward that more and more of these rookies are starting to make a big impact week after week.
SECOND DOWN: DEFENSIVE STAND
The game ball after Sunday's win went to a very deserving person – defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
It's been a challenging week for Glenn, who saw friend and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant relieved of his duties on Monday. Glenn spent a lot of time in the secondary room this week, and those guys in the back end played great. Detroit's entire defense played great.
They came up with three takeaways, which was the first time in Rodgers' Hall of Fame career he's ever had three interceptions in the red zone. Rodgers had a passer rating of 53.5 for the game. Detroit's defense also came up with the crucial turnover on downs in the final minute to preserve the win.
"Our defense had taken some heat," head coach Dan Campbell said after the game. "To see them step up against a worthy opponent and a good quarterback, it's just good."
Detroit came into Sunday ranked last in points allowed (32.1) and total defense (421.3), and while the Packers did rack up 389 total yards, the nine points allowed by the Lions is a season low for them. They came in with just six takeaways in seven games. The three Sunday was also a season high.
"I thought earlier in the week we came together as a defense and we got real with each other," Hutchinson said. "And that doesn't necessarily equate to the success, but I thought we definitely were more on the same page and that was critical.
"So, I think moving forward being in this kind of locker room and experiencing what it is like to win again. We want this and moving forward we are going to keep grinding no matter what."
THIRD DOWN: TIGHT END IMPACT
The Lions traded veteran tight end T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota on Tuesday right before the trade deadline. In doing so, they left an experience void at the position and were going to need young guys like Brock Wright (second season), James Mitchell (rookie) and Shane Zylstra (second season) to fill in and step up.
Zylstra scored Detroit's first touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Goff. The first of his career. Mitchell had the game winning 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, also his first career touchdown. All three players were good blocking in the run game.
"It's exciting," Goff said after the game about the impact the tight ends had against the Packers. "It's fun. I think those two guys specifically (Mitchell and Zylstra) have been so consistent through time and finally got a chance this week.
"Shane is a guy we've relied on for two years at times. James, kind of coming off his injury, is coming into his own."
Mitchell isn't the fastest tight end in the league, but Goff said he's really smart and does everything well. He's been gaining his quarterback's trust over the last few weeks.
FOURTH DOWN: RELYING ON STRENGTH
It was a physical, slugfest kind of game between Detroit and Green Bay Sunday.
The Lions had to rely on their defense and their run game with the Packers owning the No. 2 passing defense in the NFL, but vulnerable a bit against the run ranking 29th against the rush (141.3).
Lions running back Jamaal Williams rushed 24 times for 81 yards. Campbell had faith to run Williams behind the strength of their team, their offensive line, when Green Bay ran into the kicker on an extra point try following the Zylstra touchdown. Williams picked up the two-point conversion.
There were some nice runs in the fourth quarter as the Lions tried to run the clock with the lead. Detroit finished with 117 tough and important rushing yards.
"We felt like we could pound it a little bit," Campbell said of the run game. "And when your defense is playing like they're playing, we are able to do more of that. It gives you that luxury.
"We love our offensive line. We think it's one of the strengths of our team. We lean on them, give it to Jamaal another time and go get one."